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The Hemulen
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A jerky, atonal guitar riff, alone and unsupported is the first thing to greet your ears when you put this album on. It's soon joined by another, equally abrasive guitar phrase. And then another. The three riffs seem to converge and rub against one another at the same time before a trumpet suddenly bursts in on the mix and then, before you even get a chance to get used to it, the drums kick in.

And that's it.

That's the moment I realised that this album was something a little bit special. The way Thymme Jones manages to sweep in with such a lazy, simple drum beat over all those confusing, jangly sounds is simply staggering. Something that started out sounding almost alien in its obliqueness suddenly sounds perfectly natural. The remainder of the song more than lives up to its initial promise, too - a bleak, disharmonious tune filled with massed female vocals, gritty guitar and pounding bass (the latter of which I find rather reminiscent of Jannick Top's meaty Zeuhl sound, but with a little more restraint).

Actually, restraint is a surprisingly good word to describe much of this album. The whole thing is a tightly composed, arranged sort of affair with little room for improvisation. This is, in my opinion, no bad thing.

The two short tracks which follow the superb but somewhat lethargic opener brilliantly showcase the band's more frenetic side. "Mescaliato" is a quick burst of bass-laden madness in which the band play a complex Gentle Giant-esque rhythm in (mostly) absolute synchronisation. It also features some wild growling guitar and, again, that Zeuhl-y bass is to the fore. This jumps straight into "And Then You Realise You Haven't Left Yet", a somewhat jazzier affair with pounding piano and sax. Again, tightly composed and full of notes. Lovely stuff.

"Blue Cheadle" was an instant favourite of mine, what with its grinding riff which almost seems to drop beats at random only to pick them right back up again, chant-like repetitive vocals and positively eerie violins which shudder and whine the song to a close.

"The Carnal, Garish City" is highly reminiscent of Thinking Plague and 5uu's without ever sound remotely derivative. Another stand-out track that I really can't even begin to describe adequately. : "According to the Spiral" introduces an unexpected element to the avant-prog mix: poppy, soulful vocals. Something of a shock at first, but it quickly becomes clear that rather than a jarring juxtaposition, they fit in beautifully with the album's dark, intricate sound.

This is further explored in the album's closing song, the mini-epic "Your Weak Heart". It begins with a heartfelt piece of piano-accompanied crooning which wouldn't seem out of place on any American singer/songerwriter's album. This bleeds its way into an extended instrumental avant-prog workout in which unfolds with an increasingly gut-wrenching sense of urgency, underpinned all the while by Jones' hammering piano. All of a sudden it jerks back to the original vocal refrain, which now feels like a completely different song due to the madness that has come before it.

It's been a struggle to write this review, as there are so few adequate ways to describe the music on this album. Comparisons to other bands nearly always seem unjustified or misleading whilst attempts to pigeonhole even individual parts of songs have left me scratching my head in bewilderment. Having said this, nothing on this album sounds SO dissimilar to me that I would ever feel lost or alienated by it. Any seasoned avant-prog fan is unlikely to find this album a challenge to appreciate. Instead, they will simply relish in its complexities (and its simplicities too), and wallow in the nigh-on perfectly constructed-ness of it all.

Arbitrary list of songs I like ever so slightly more than all the other songs on this album (which I also really like):

Sun Dies Blue Cheadle The Carnal, Garish City According to the Spiral

Report this review (#204898)
Posted Monday, March 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Yet another 2009 prog gem, Cheer-Accident's "Fear Draws Misfotune" is living proof that the avant-rock scene in the USA has a major presence concerning the permanence and enhancement of the most bizarre trenes of prog rock nowadays. This band is a recent discovery of mine, and I imagine that there are lots of PA readers that are still to this veteran ensemble's body of work. Let me tell them all that Cheer-Accident is treasure worth checking, and the sooner the merrier. After getting acquainted with other bands from the country of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Edward Hopper such as French TV (pure eclectic mischief in total progressive fashion) and Rascal Reporters (manifestation of playfulness in a bizarrely intelligent framework), I felt more than ready to start my research into this bands founded by drummer/pianist Thymme Jones in the early 80s. After a bunch of studio efforts and plenty of line-up changes, the current Cheer-Accident is the nuclear trio of Jones, guitarist/trumpeter Jeff Libersher and bassist Alex Perkolup, persistently supported by a varying host of guest musicians on sundry "unorthodox" instruments (violin, tuba, trombone...). Among the distinguished support musicians are the talented (and beautiful) violinist of SGM, as well as Dave Smith and Fred Lonberg-Holm, important members of the avant-garde chamber and experimental jazz scenes of the USA. Going through the album, let's begin at the beginning. The opener 'Sun Dies' starts with a dissonant sequence of guitar juxtaposed against the horns, with added vocal arrangements. This prologue fades out at the 2 minute mark so the main body can emerge settled on a catchy pace. The combined sophistication and energy grow their intensity gradually, making the piece simulate a marriage of Henry Cow and Thinking Plague in a Crimsonian altar. 'Mescalito' finds the band exploring a more explosive atmosphere, something like a metallish refurbishment of Zappa's signature madness, which in turn makes Cheer-Accident lean close to the demented standards of Doctor Nerve. This short piece is segued into another track whose shortness goes in parallel with its intensity - 'And Then You Realize You Haven't Left Yet'. This one has a very European feel to it, related to the grayish density of Belgian masters Univers Zero and Present. Personally, I wouldn't have minded at all if the latter track had been developed into a longer duration, although I must admit that this "abruptly finished" strategy works perfectly as a listening experience aimed at the accomplishment of catharsis. With this dynamics of administered tension, the band sets up to explore a lighter side of things with 'Blue Cheadle', which arises as the catchier song so far: but let's not overlook those fusionesque ornaments that go flowing naturally or those semi-Magmian choral arrangements. There is a sense of perverse disturbance in the air among the rocking celebration all the way toward the magnificent climax. 'Disenchantment' bears heavily minimalistic industrial ambiences, well rooted in the futuristic side of classic R.I.O. near the end, a female chant and some weird accordion notes provide extra textures. 'The Carnal, Garish City' brings back the patent progressive sophistication that had already been present in 'And Then You Realize You Haven't Left Yet', only this time the greyish moods are properly attenuated by the utilization of agile cadences that belong in the more cheerful pattern of USA's chamber-rock (remember Cartoon or Pocket Orchestra? Well, Cheer-Accident is from that forgotten age of art-rock). The agility and vivacity so vividly expressed in 'The Carnal, Garish City' is perpetuated in 'According to the Spiral', which bears a pulsating drive handled with elegant mastery. All in all, I feel that these two tracks should have benefited from more expanded arrangements, but fortunately, this perception isn't reiterated in the last two tracks - 'Humanizing the Distance' and 'Your Weak Heart'. 'Humanizing the Distance' is somewhat focused on the heavy prog thing with an accentuated Crimsonian twist. The strategically placed brass arrangements powerfully add a defining punch to the whole framework. After arriving at the 4 minute mark, there is a chaotic shift that causes a crucial impact on the track's structure in order to pave the way for the forthcoming eerie coda. The gentle piano chords that ultimately appear serve as a connection to the closing track 'Your Weak Heart'. It starts as a piano-voice ballad, with the keyboard washes little by little building complex textures that end up leading to a bombastic manifestation of nostalgia (not unlike compatriot band Far Corner). The ballad mood returns for the coda, ending the song and album on a fascinating reflective note. "Fear Draws Misfortune" is a robust musical work, signaled by an amazing management of avant-garde sources and a clever use of tight sounds. Cheer-Accident gives definitive proof of its ongoing vitality.
Report this review (#218619)
Posted Wednesday, May 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars My my, hope for an aging progger, looking for new avant prog that continues the artistic endeavors of the giants before them. Yes, I believe that Cheer-Accident are now in full blossom with this release. Very focused, still eclectic, but in an arty, no nonsense combination.

A nice reflection of our past heroes like the Art Bears, This Heat, However, maybe a bit of Magma even, and a little touch of Terry Riley style minimalism. But adding their youth to the equation gets you a heavier, more modern sound. BUT!!!!!!! not so heavy that it's really Metal with intricacy. This is compositional music, that uses modern, deep dissonance as a tool, not a "trick" of trying to sound current. And with that slightly Canterbury influence, you get that "can't get enough of it" kind of balance.

Ah, there's hope still for this old hippie to find new music that can inspire as our yesteryear gods have for years. Thank you Cheer-Accident, and thank you Prog Archives.

Report this review (#226172)
Posted Sunday, July 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This American band has been making Avant-garde music since 1981. Many are saying that this is their best album yet, an impressive feat. There are three core musicians along with a cast of about 15 musicians and singers helping out. THINKING PLAGUE did come to mind and even UNIVERS ZERO, mainly with the piano sections. This is adventerous, fun and challenging. I'm very impressed with this band.

"Sun Dies" is led by drums and horns early as vocals join in. I like when it builds 2 minutes in with guitar. Vocal melodies follow. It kicks in heavily before 4 1/2 minutes. Vibes late. "Mescalito" is a short piece with pounding drums and vibes. The guitar makes some noise. "And Then You Realize You Haven't Left Yet" is another short track. So much going on. Just a great sound. Horns late. "Blue Cheadle" has this catchy rhythm. Vocals 2 minutes in. It's heavier before 4 minutes, then it turns eerie late with violin. "Disenchantment" has this cool beat. The song changes before 2 1/2 minutes as female vocals then horns come in.

"The Carnal, Garish City" is my least favourite but I still like it. It's just harder to get into. A heavy beat takes over fairly quickly. The guitar comes in too. The tempo then slows but it's heavier. Vocals before 2 1/2 minutes. Horns a minute later. "According To The Spiral" has a nice full sound with drums and piano. Flute joins in then vocals. "Humanizing The Distance" is uptempo before settling some a minute in. Heavy guitar 2 minutes in, horns follow. Vocal melodies before 3 1/2 minutes as the drums pound. It calms right down late. "Your Weak Heart" opens with vocals and piano. Vocals stop but the piano continues. Horns join in 2 1/2 minutes in. It picks up a minute later. Horns, drums and piano lead the way. The song ends as it began with vocals and piano.

One of the best i've heard from 2009. Great album !

Report this review (#238415)
Posted Thursday, September 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Stunning release from one of the veterans of the American avant-prog scene. The album flows effortlessly from one track to another, bringing a richness and variety of sound with every track. Those progressive rock fans who usually flee from RIO/Avant releases shouldn't have too much to fear - this album is highly accessible yet at the same time has all the usual accoutrements that one expects from high quality prog rock. Thymme Jones delivers an outstanding performance both on drums and piano, but to this reviewer it is the piano work on this album that is the standout, particularly on the closing track "Your Weak Heart" - Jones begins with a simple melody and soulful vocal before launching into an aggressive, mechanical attack and then recapitulating to the tenor of the opening. The panoply of musicians bring a full, rich sound to the compositions, as well as wonderful moments of poignancy - in particular the horns on the aforementioned "Your Weak Heart" and "According to the Spiral". Not a single weak second of music on this record, it is sure to be one of the finest avant-prog releases of 2009. Highest recommendation, 4.5 stars.
Report this review (#238728)
Posted Friday, September 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars Oh yeah, this album is special. It's modern Avant band that, even accessible more than others (who else is able to get weirdness of "Freak Out" by Zappa please stand up ... everyone ? OK, bad try). Purpose of this album (it's my first album by this band) is for sure be non melodic. Or harmonic, whatever, that doesn't matter so much as that all over this album is striking (and shouting) fact that this is "different" than most of other current music. This is not trying to do arse-licking, instead, they're doing what they want. In a way how they want it. Even it can mean that they're not "nice-and-beautiful-love-songs" band. They're not even symphonic/eclectic/crossover (and other prog genres listed here, the best style that fits them is really this one).

3(+), I can enjoy it, I really can. As proved right now and earlier when I was listening it. However, not at all times, as this can be quite tricky and for certain moods only. Expect some post-rock elements (!) too.

Report this review (#259640)
Posted Wednesday, January 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've been listening to Cheer-Accident since 1999, and they continue to make good music. While "Fear Draws Misfortune" is not their best (check out "Introducing Lemon"), it is a solid record and cements their sound more in the RIO/avant progressive rock genre. As they have mentioned -- it was a record written for Cuneiform to fit that "sound". They have achieved this goal.

The vocals are the most impressive aspect of this record. Cheer-Accident have a new female voice that is clear, articulate, chromatic, and reminiscent of Deborah Perry from Thinking Plague. The Hammil-esque-cum-punk screams from Thymme are absent from this work, as well as the Henry Cow-like discordant group singing. You'll find those in Introducing Lemon and select earlier works. In fact, Introducing Lemon has Jamie Fillmore doing a Peter Gabriel impression that would make Nad Sylvan jealous.

Another appealing aspect is that there are less forays into the John Cage style experimental music. You really don't hear as much of the 10 minutes of smashing bottles or answering machine messages played back over guitar feedback. In my opinion -- good riddance. I often find myself embarking on a Cheer-Accident voyage, only to point my iPod toward more musical endeavors. For example, "Even Has A Half-Life", the opener on Not A Food, starts with an amazing (yet repetitive) counter punctual riff that slowly decays into an all-too-long noise collage of feedback and answering machine messages -- inside jokes that don't really do much for the listener. These are absent from FDM, for the good of the record.

I would have given this more stars, but there is something I feel needs to be addressed. Cheer-Accident are featured in a new documentary about progressive rock called "Romantic Warriors". In the trailer, they make the claim that it's not 1975 anymore (really? thanks for clearing that up) and progressive music should advance. Steve Feigenbaum also opines in favor of this notion. This seems to be critical of the other bands in the documentary, who have a more "traditional" symphonic sound.

The reality is that Cheer-Accident aren't all that original themselves. They seem to be trying to pull the wool over the progressive rock community's eyes a little bit, but I don't think people here are fooled by it. We can see comparisons to Thinking Plague in the band's bio. Let's be fair to Thinking Plague -- what they do is far more cerebral, calculated, and complex. I often bail on listening to Cheer-Ax to put in "In Extremis", which is the unchallenged avant-prog masterpiece of the past 20 years.

Cheer-Accident have evolved in a manner where they wax and wane between progressive influences and Chicago indie rock influences (largely math rock). Their early days consisted of home recordings with a strong This Heat influence. Their first real records were indeed progressive rock, peppered with many nods to Crimson, This Heat, The Art Bears, VDGG, and other influences. Then they became a math rock band, akin to Breadwinner, Don Caballero or Helmet, and part of the inbred Steve Albini led Chicago scene. Then they made a pop record (The Why Album). Introducing Lemon marked their return to progressive rock, and it remains their masterpiece. Then they made another pop record (What Sequel?). Now, with Cuneiform record's backing, they are back into avant-progressive rock. Well, sort of. Blue Cheedle sounds like it was pretty much lifted off of Shellac's (Steve Albini's current band) 1994 album "At Action Park". So much for the future and originality, eh?

I would have given this 4 stars, but I had to ding them for sanctimony. They claim they are the future of progressive rock, but they simply have different influences. I happen to love symphonic progressive music just as much as the RIO/avant sub-genre. Let's face it -- RIO/avant bands have influences. They're just different influences than symphonic bands. Also, claiming that symphonic bands are throwbacks to 1975 is intellectually dishonest. The reason they are called "symphonic" bands is because they make classically inspired music. I find it to actually be much more timeless than RIO/avant music. Genesis, Yes, and even Transatlantic are just as much dwelling in 1745 as they are in 1975 or modern rock.

Cheer-Accident did not come up with this music in a vacuum. Sometimes I think they are a bit dishonest. If you look at their myspace page, for example, they claim they are influenced by Herb Alpert and Led Zeppelin. Yes, it could be an attempt at humor, but it also obfuscates their real influences (that are obvious if you listen) -- the usual RIO/avant suspects plus 90's indie math rock. You can hear The Art Bears, Henry Cow, UZ, Peter Hammill/VdGG as well as Breadwinner, The Great Brain, Helmet, Don Caballero, Shellac, and other influences. I am fatigued with avant bands that claim they are better than "1970s sounding" symphonic bands. They just have different influences.

That said, this record is worth listening to and purchasing, but don't be fooled by the hype. They have their influences, from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. They didn't come up with this sound in a vacuum. It's a mash-up of different influences. Everyone has influences, but some people don't admit it. Much like an infamous analog-recording zealot, or post-rock musicians that really make jazz fusion, there just seems to be a lot of this sort of intellectual dishonesty in the Chicago scene. It seems they learned the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but they haven't been able to eek out as much success as Albini or Tortoise with this hype-approach.

Report this review (#263358)
Posted Friday, January 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars When I think that I just listened to this album for the first time two days ago, I find it somewhat stunning, because already this album has become a favorite of 2009 for me. (Yeah, I'm still a month or two behind - what's your point? :)

It starts off in a way that I don't particularly like - off-key sounding guitars, joined by a couple other off sounding instruments. But I find that these sounds are common to the genre, and if you just deal with them, they usually combine in such a way that sounds surprisingly excellent. And on Sun Dies, by the time the vocals start up, my theory has been proven true. The guitars, horns, and all the other instruments combine in a way that is much more than the sum of their parts. From that point on, I like to liken this kind of music to ear candy. It's one interesting, sweet, catchy sound after another.

For sure, the idea of music in this album is different than what one would expect if they were listening to a Yes album. There's a lot more dissonance, a lot more abrupt sounds, the flow is a lot more jagged. (That's the best word I can think of to describe it, anyways). By the time that they reprise the vocals on Sun Dies, you actually think that you are listening to a different song - yet that somehow makes it more powerful!

The next two tracks don't really have as strong of identities of their own, because although the flow is jagged on this album, it is still there, and these songs flow so naturally from Sun Dies that they sound like just another instrumental section of the song. (For sure, on this album, having a song with parts as varied as these two are is not uncommon). Of the two, And Then You Realise You Haven't Left Yet is the better, but each is an excellent little sound byte.

Then comes Blue Cheadle. This song has some sort of underlying beat that works so strangely well with the music overtop that I can't help but be pumped up by it. Even the chanting vocals of "Blue Cheadle" (what is a Cheadle anyways? I should google it) somehow seem fully charged.

Disenchantment contains some interesting rhythm section in the front half and some very effective female vocals in the second half.

The Carnal, Garish City has an excellent dark open that sounds exactly like the name implies it should, although it does change somewhat halfway through (including Magma-like female vocals!? !).

The vocals in "According to the Spire" overlaid on top of the pulsating piano are also quite excellent. I love the way that the background is quick and repetitive, while the vocals are long and drawn. This is also the song where the albums title came from.

Humanizing the Distance is full of great sounds, but if I have to point out one song on this album that somehow manages to be strangely beautiful, it is Your Weak Heart. The vocals at the beginning and end are so full of emotion that is stunning, bringing a huge human element to this song that is otherwise full of instrumental moments that are as great as anything else on the album.

My favorite part of this album? Unlike some albums, where you can't wait for certain songs to start playing, in this album each song is a gem, and so I get a boost of excitement each time a new track starts playing. Truly excellent music by truly gifted musicians.

Report this review (#264279)
Posted Thursday, February 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Taking Progressive Music, StonerRock (??!), Jazz and Avantgarde to places the casual listener didn't know existed Cheer Accident don't fail to amaze. This is intelligent, timeless stuff and needs plenty of listens. As with their previous release the music twists and turns when you last expect it - 'Your Weak Heart' for example starts as an epic ballad before turning at the 3min mark into a jazz-rocking exercise, all in the best possible taste naturally. Still, this album is more accessible than 'Introducing Lemon' and probably the best way to start if you are new to this magnificent outfit.
Report this review (#276921)
Posted Thursday, April 8, 2010 | Review Permalink

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